As the weather in Texas grows warmer, the question is again being raised about whether the state’s un air conditioned prisons amount to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, 1200 WOAI News reports.
A human rights group at the University of Texas School of Law today is releasing a report showing that 14 prisoners have died of heat related injuries inside the state’s prisons just in the past seven years.
“We hope that everybody is aware of how the extreme hear affects both people who are incarcerated, and people who have to work in those conditions,” Arial Delitzky, a professor of the U.T. School of Law, told 1200 WOAI news.
Most of the state’s prison beds are in units which were built before air conditioning became common in the South, generally before the mid 1950s. Some of the newer prison units, and all of the prison hospital units, are air conditioned. The state says it would be prohibitively expensive to air condition prisons.
But Delitzky says holding inmates in baking hot boxes in the Texas summer heat is clearly cruel and unusual punishment.
“The main focus is on the extreme heat in those prisons, and the lack of proper ventilation, air conditioning, and things like that,” he said.
As the state fights to hold down taxes while dealing with a booming population and critical needs in highway and water funding, air conditioning state prisons has fallen to the bottom of the priority scale.
But organizations representing prison guards, who have to work on those hot conditions, are also angry about the conditions and are threatening lawsuits.